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According to usingenglish.com "all the rage" means the following:

If something's all the rage, it is very popular or fashionable at the moment.

I understand this primary meaning. However, I was told that this idiom also implies popularity of something short-term that will soon decline, leaving no tangible results. Is it so? Are there any other shades of meaning of this idiom?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Per your definition, it is popular or fashionable at the moment. How long this “moment” will last is hazy — if you are talking about web design styles, the usual answer is a couple of years, and so is worth noting for a site build. If you are talking about a TV series or toy, it is liable to be six months or until Christmas.

There is an implication that something is popular within a particular culture — that may be popular culture, Sloane culture, or Azerbijan culture. So it might be “all the rage in Blackburn” or “all the rage amongst young Trekkies”. It is often used for something that defines a particular culture or subculture for a while.

It can carry an implication that if you get in now and exploit it, you can make some serious money. But do not commit long term, because however popular it currently is and however much you extend the usage of this fashion, it will not stay popular longer term.

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+1 I prefer your answer to mine :) FYI, there are a few typos in your answer that need fixing. –  coleopterist Jul 23 '12 at 13:48

Yes, that's about right. However, in my opinion, the ephemeral aspect of this idiom has grown over time due to its association with other components. I've outlined a few here:

The hula hoop was all the rage in 1959.

Wearing bright yellow trousers was all the rage back in the day.

Using the word frack instead of f#$k is all the rage at the moment.

Wearing a moustache is all the rage nowadays.

In other words, this phrase is inevitably associated with a component of time which implies something transitory.

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The temporal aspect is good to include. It is a different sort of limitation, but just as common. –  Schroedingers Cat Jul 23 '12 at 13:50

Collins gives, as one meaning of the word "rage":

a fashion or craze (esp in the phrase all the rage) (link)

The term "craze" is of note, as "rage" has its origin in the word "rabies" (see the Online Etymology Dictionary).

"Rage", in every sense, connotes an intense and transient state. So it's safe to say that the popularity of something that's "all the rage" is bound to fade.

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When something that is "all the rage" fades into obscurity, I suppose none should be too surprised. However, I don't think all the rage necessarily implies "bound to fade" – unlike, say, passing fad. Consider this quote, from a 1993 book in the Carmen Sandiego series: "It's the Sixties, and rock and roll is all the rage..." The freshness of something "all the rage" may pass, but whatever that something is need not fade into oblivion. Just a thought. –  J.R. Jul 23 '12 at 15:34
    
Thanks, J.R. You make a good point! –  crisis.sheep Jul 23 '12 at 19:32

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